City of London at night
City of London ready for Olympic Business Deals (Pic. londonview.com)

Mayor of London Boris Johnson today welcomed the opening of the London Media Centre (LMC), which will host over 6,200 accredited and non-accredited journalists from 832 media organisations from around the world during this summer’s London 2012 Olympics.  The centre will be a home to journalists visiting London to capture the numerous business deals that are likely to be signed during the Olympics.

While journalists covering the sporting events will be based at The International Broadcast Centre within The Olympic Park, non-sporting international reporters and bloggers from 66 countries visiting London during the Olympics will have access to a state of the art media centre in the heart of Westminster.

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said: ‘This will be a summer like no other, presenting an unparalleled opportunity for London to show off its wares to a global audience of billions. An inquisitive army of reporters, camera crews and photographers are migrating to our city to see not only sporting history in the making, but everything that makes a host city tick. From the iconic to the little known, we want these media professionals to be offered an unparalleled experience of the capital and a smorgasbord of great stories. This will ensure that future tourists and businesses get a taste of why London is the best place in the world to visit and invest in for years to come.’

London hopes that this summer’s Olympics will also provide a marathon of deals that will showcase the city as a creative business-friendly destination.

The capital will not just see an influx of journalists from around the world, but of public relations practitioners who will be managing the communications for clients and employers alike during the games.

UK Trade and Investment recently stated that the games could see a boost to UK Plc worth £13bn over the next four years. But this figure might not include the deals that will be sealed during the games and will act as a tonic during the current global business malaise.

With under 20 days left until the opening ceremony, it will be the business pages that will be worth looking through during the #London2012 games.

Data and analytics is shaping the media landscape.  That is the message that came from the speakers at the first day of this year’s FT Digital Media Conference in London.

While Jimmy Wales opened the two-day media gathering with insight on the power of the community, it was the FT’s CEO John Ridding and AOL Huffington Post Media Group VP Noel Penzer who pushed the importance of data in knowing your audience.

John Ridding said, ‘I didn’t think that when I went into journalism 20 years ago I’d get excited about data and analytics.’  And data is becoming as central to the media landscape as making the content seamlessly available across platform.  Ridding himself added that HTML5 is a big deal for publishing as making content available across multiple platforms is very expensive, something that HTML5 resolves.  This move to HTML5 highlights the growth of users receiving content while on mobile devices – phones and tablets.  And it is this that gives the kind of real-time data that enables us to better understand the audience.

Many of the platforms that are becoming essential to those in media are funded by venture capital and it took Index Ventures Partner Neil Rimer to say that Facebook might not have yet exploited it’s full potential, before adding that it could become more valuable than Google.

Balderton Capital’s Dharmash Mistry provided the strategic and focused insight by stating that Facebook’s strength is as ‘a powerful distribution network.’  Mistry gave the example of Spotify, who grew in the US by making the decision to embedded itself into Facebook’s open graph.

The audience has gathered in one place and it’s just a matter of time that this benefit is fully utilised by those in media and communications.  I am not talking in a marketing sense either.  I’ve been making this point for the past 12 months, about how a connected community can bring together an audience.  This, together with using micro payments on Facebook, such as it’s credits offering could see revenues for publishers as for gaming companies like Zynga.  Dharmash Mistry himself said that the future for Facebook is with micro-payments.

Data is no longer dull, but a currency that can help not just business understand their audience, but help the audience find the content that is of interest to them.

UK national tabloid The News Of The World (#NOTW) is caught in the eye of a very public storm as revelations allege their involvement in the phone hacking of not just the murdered Milly Dowler, but the parents of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman and victims of the July 7th London bombing.

The esteemed Nicholas Tomalin, said that ‘the only qualities needed for real success in Journalism are ratlike cunning, a plausible manner and a little literary ability.‘ He was not wrong.

It is this cunning that’s got The Guardian’s Nick Davies  the story, as it’s served up insight into the activities that were allegedly common place at the News Of The World.  But let’s not single them out exclusively.  News outlets are in competition with one another and it would be odd to think that they were the only ones guilty.  In fact, In the 2006 ‘What Price Privacy Now?’ report (below) the Information Commission highlighted that 305 journalists had been identified during Operation Motorman as customers driving the illegal trade in confidential personal information.  Have a look at the list and you’ll be surprised by some of the titles that were named and shamed.  The various reports confirm two methods that journalists and private investigators use to get information, including, ‘through corruption, or more usually by some form of deception, generally known as ‘blagging’. Blaggers pretend to be someone they are not in order to wheedle out the information they are seeking.’

What Price Privacy Now Notw

Phone-hacking is really just the tip of the iceberg.  Given that most people do not change the default password on their phone it is pretty easy to intercept voice messages.  But, getting information on addresses, car registration requires deception and/or as the law describes, corruption.

The above report highlights the case of how in November 2006 Stephen and Sharon Anderson of St Ives in Cambridgeshire pleaded guilty to obtaining and selling information unlawfully whilst operating as private investigators.  They used ‘blagging’ techniques to obtain and attempt to obtain personal information about individuals from a number of organisations including Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, British Telecommunications plc and various banks.

So, while our eyes are currently on The News Of The World, the real question is, what about organisations that private investigators get their data from?  How safe is your data – your bank details, phone numbers, your bills and tax information?  And how ready are these businesses for the questions that must be asked?  If you work PR in-house or agency-side are you ready for the reputation of your client or employer being questioned?  And questions about how safe customers data is?  And today, when we work online, how safe our our emails and our personal profiles?

News Of The World’s official line that it was all down to a ‘rogue reporter’ just did not wash from a public relations perspective.  While it might have held back the criticism, it was like putting a finger in the dam.

Some newsrooms are aggressive places with boiler-room like cultures. You have to get the story. You don’t ask questions about the how, you just need to make sure that all the pieces fit together and that your legal team sign it off.  All of course with the safety net of ‘Public Interest.’  But what is the definition of public interest? And why is the very quiet Press Complaint Commission so neutral?  The PCC’s statement was just pointless.

Carter-Ruck Partner Magnus Boyd says, “public interest is always the justification used for such intrusion. It appears the lack of an adequate definition of public interest has allowed many spurious claims to the public interest.”  He says, “At the moment only Ofcom and the PCC offer working definitions of what is in the public interest and both are deliberately vaugue so as to retain sufficient flexibility and applicability.”

“Conversely, however, the lack of precision in the definition of ‘public interest’ allows the concept to be cited on ‘a rather tired and formulaic basis’ in many cases as Mr Justice Eady noted.  What is interesting to the public may not neceassarily be in the public interest but we can no longer afford to seek to define it by ommission or by the adage, ‘you’ll know it when you see it’.” We need to define what the public interest is in a way that the general public can understand and relate to and which will have sufficient flexibilty to adapt to changing circumstances without being all things to all men

Talking about celebrity reporting Boyd goes on to explain, “Ironically, celebrity reporting usually requires the least invasive investigation techniques – there are usually people ready to talk off the record and perpetuate the gossip. What may well emerge from recent events is that hacking and blagging were used far more in the investigation of financial and corporate stories than readers may have realised as well as more general news items.”

Up an until The Guardian revealed that the phone of Milly Dowler had been hacked the story seemed distant from the public.  It was an issue that just affected celebrities, people, as some might claim, that courted the media.  But knowing to what lengths certain media outlets would go to has turned the tide.

A social media campaign by the public has been targeting not just readers of the paper but companies that advertise in the News of the World.  Public revulsion is pushing this gossip paper into a tight corner.  Companies like Ford, Mitsubishi, NPower, Virgin Holidays have cut their advertising from the title.

The Daily Telegraph’s Harry Wallop commented on Twitter, ‘NotW makes c£35m from ads + c£135m from sales. Few weeks of dropped ads won’t hit paper hard. Reader loyalty is what matters.’

The community is using Twitter and Facebook to spread their disgust and it’s having an impact, with subscribers to The Sun and other News International cancelling their subscriptions.

Social media can whip-up a storm and highlight public sentiment in real-time.  Give the community and argument and it will express it’s view.  But let’s remember, they are not the only guilty party and PR’s need to be ready for the questions about data, information and privacy that now need to be asked.

****UPDATE***

The Press Complain’s Commission yesterday released a statement that, well, didn’t say much apart from it being unhappy with the conduct of one of it’s members.

In Press Gazette today, Dominic Ponsford highlights how a Independent Enquiry might (we hope) focus on the role of the PCC.

Labour MP Alun Michael, himself a former journalist, speaking in an emergency debate about phone-hacking in the Commons yesterday, said: “The PCC is well meaning, but frankly it’s a joke, the public deserve better and the journalists deserve better. The PCC clearly has neither the will nor the ability to change things. What we need is an independent body, that is robust, effective, and has the powers to investigate and enforce. That would be a major step forward.

BBC DG Mark Thompson

Convergence.  This was one of the keywords that came of out of this year’s 2011 Financial Times Digital Media & Broadcast Conference.  It’s taking me some time to pen this, but I wanted to share some of the key points that were discussed.

Last year the conference coincided with the BBC unveiling the results of it’s Strategy Review.  This year gathering started on the same time as Apple unveiled its much-anticipated iPad 2, Facebook announced the rollout of its Comments plug-in and the all-important decision from the Department for Culture Media and Sport Minister Jeremy Hunt MP to allow News International’s full take-over of BSkyB.

Chief executives and senior board members gathered in London to outline their thoughts on an industry that is changing at breakneck speed.  It’s an industry that is no longer operating by itself, but a sector that is being driven by the technology that their own consumers are engaging with.  And the speed of adoption is forcing many boards to re-evaluate how they engage with their audiences.

Mobile and social networking are the two platforms, the two elephants in the room, that media and broadcast organisations are still struggling to grapple with.  They are also the platforms that public relations professionals must fully grasp for themselves and their clients.

BBC Director General Mark Thompson highlighted this year how ‘new media’ and the consumer have shaped how it offers content.  The corporation accepted that consumers want the BBC’s content on every platform.  Its iPlayer is today available on the iPhone and iPad, with Thompson confirming that people even watch BBC content on their mobiles in bed.

Thompson understands simplicity and highlighted that the iPlayer works because it is straightforward.  In January of this year 162 million downloads were made through the iPlayer, this in a country of 25 million households.

Thompson confirmed that 2011 is the year of convergence, stating that strength is with those that have a strong presence online and understand the value of simplicity.

One of the areas that the BBC Director General is looking at is the power and influence of social recommendations and how this will shape how we all watch television.  Indeed Thompson confirmed that the BBC and Facebook are having conversations.

Speaking at the conference Facebook’s EMEA Managing Director Joanna Shield confirmed that the company now has 30 million active users in the UK, accounting for 1 in 2 of the population.  Talking about how it ‘supports‘ UK media Shields highlighted that 10% of the Daily Mail’s web traffic now comes from Facebook and that the sites plugins have helped The Independent gain up to a 700% increase in traffic.

Talking of Facebook, Sales and Marketing Director for mobile provider 3 Marc Allera in a separate session said that a staggering 75% of their data traffic is directed to Facebook – an incredible statistic.  Allera also said that 90% of 3’s sales are Smartphone’s.

Facebook is the platform of choice for the consumer.  For business it is the ‘frenemy’, a business that delivers eyeballs to those with an online presence, but a business that can quickly cannibalise those that work with it.  Take Groupon and Livingsocial for example.  Both living in the hype, but both under the knife of Facebook, who a few days ago announced ‘a new service that will sell discounts deals to consumers.’ Sound familiar?

So, Facebook is becoming an entity in itself.  The stats show it, but for the time being, it is a fact that business needs to learn to live with it.  Equally, it needs to retain control of the data that makes it’s business a business.

I was going to ask, remember when clients used to ask about needing a Facebook Strategy?  Something that made PRs and Strategists cringe?  Well, there is a need to have a Facebook Strategy, but a strategy to manage them and avoid each business being cannibalised by this growing entity.  The data that companies share with the social giant make the same businesses vulnerable.

Convergence and Facebook, and of course all the other offerings.  The tables have turned and consumers are showing businesses how and where they want their content.

Comments by Sky Sports presenter Richard Keys and pundit Andy Gray about assistant referee Sian Massey and West Ham Deputy Chairwoman Karen Brady this weekend highlight the problem that football in the UK has.  Their off-air sexist remarks highlight outdated and out of touch views in the The Premier League, Championship and lower divisions.  Dealing with them, will help give UK football a much needed rebrand.

Keys and Gray have been the leading commentators on Sky Sports since the channel’s inception in 1992.  The game though has moved on since then.  It’s become far more athletic and its audience has been more diverse, with many more women watching the game, if not on TV then at their chosen grounds.  Yet for too long we have heard the views of these two out of touch pundits on how a physical presence is needed in games where fast flowing and thinking football is played.

Sadly though Sky Sports hasn’t kept apace with the changes in the game and in their audience and that has damaged how game it funds is perceived not just overseas, but by sponsors and advertisers that swell the channel’s own coffers.  Would advertisers pay for slots on Sky Sports when the way they present the game is outdated?

Keys and Gray have permeated views and made acceptable views that have not helped the English game develop.  They are out of touch and certainly off-side.

Of course questions have to be asked as to how these recordings came to light, but it certainly looks like they were leaked.  And this can only be a good thing.

Gordon Brown learned the hard way about how you are ‘always on air when mic’d up.’  And of course Richard Keys has previous for foot-in-mouth.  Being in the media and being ‘outted’ to the pack must hurt, but it’s about time that Sky Sports does its job in presenting the game as one for all and not just for men.

Keys and Gray are not just one of the problems in how the game of football is perceived.  New pundits that know about the modern game will help Sky resolve this PR nightmare that it finds itself in.  Who knows, maybe washing your dirty laundry in public can be a good thing for Sky Sports and for the game.

***BREAKING NEWS***

This story is developing.  Within hours of posting Sky Sports sack their Chief Pundit Andy Gray for comments he is alleged to have made in December while recording a Christmas special, which a dutiful PR has just leaked onto Youtube.  Goodbye.  See below: